Nigeria Jails Top Political Aide

By Daily Graphic

A top Nigerian politician from the ruling party has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years for corruption.

Olabode George was accused of inflating contracts and abusing public funds worth $500million (£305million) when he ran the Nigerian ports authority. George was seen as one of the untouchables among the Nigerian elite.

Lawyers for George, a close ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, told the BBC he would appeal.

Nigerians are questioning whether the conviction and sentencing of George can be true.

He and five colleagues accused entered the court before their conviction laughing and joking.

But the smiles faded and the court erupted into disorder as they were sentenced. George - the former national chairman of the People's Democratic Party - was found guilty on 35 counts of 68 separate offences, all of them relating to abuse of public funds.

The five others, who worked with him in the Nigerian Ports Authority, were also found guilty on numerous charges.

The charges include conspiracy, disobedience of lawful orders, inflation of contracts and an offence known as 'contract splitting'.

Public officials are forbidden from awarding contracts of more than 130,000 naira without approval.

Splitting the contract into parts, to award a far larger sum of money, is breaking the law.

All six argued their innocence during the trial.

The amount of money involved is not particularly big by Nigeria's standards, but what surprises people is that George has been convicted at all.

The ruling from the judge, Justice Oyewole, will send a chill to corrupt officials in high places.